This Texas Valedictorian Went From Not Speaking English to a Full Ride at Stanford in Six Years

Lead Photo: Photo by Rose Baca, The Dallas Morning News
Photo by Rose Baca, The Dallas Morning News
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Six years ago, Luis Govea moved to the United States from Mexico. At the time, he barely spoke any English; his vocabulary only consisted of simple words like apple, red, white, and blue. But in his time in the US, Govea mastered English, became the valedictorian at Irving High School in Texas, and received a full ride to Stanford University. 

The self-starter began learning English in middle school, with just his school’s computers and Rosetta Stone. Shy at first, Luis grew into a talented student, and became involved in almost every school club. “He wants to be a part of everything, but he doesn’t feel the need to be in the limelight,” Govea’s counselor, Laura Zimmer, told The Dallas Morning News. “He’s very genuine, and he’s always smiling.”

Besides extracurriculars, Luis is a National AP Scholar and has taken a whopping 20 AP exams, earning the highest score (a five) on 9 exams and a four on three exams. This year’s exam scores have yet to be released. 

His parents – who legally came to the US in order to give their children a better education – have been his main support system. “He reaches things that a lot of kids can’t reach, and I feel lucky he has the opportunities at the biggest schools,” Gerardo Govera, Luis’ dad, said. “I only see those school names on TV. I didn’t think I would look at those right in front of my eyes.” 

Though Luis took a lot of initiative, his late aunt, Sarah Moreno, impacted Luis in an everlasting way. When he got good grades, she’d treat him to ice cream. At the end of one school year, she bought him a Game Boy Advance. Moreno recently died of cancer, and Luis keeps the now non-functioning Game Boy to feel connected to her.

He continued to keep his grades up, which made him eligible for Quest-bridge – a scholarship program that brings highly accomplished high school students to prestigious universities. That’s how he earned scholarships to Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, Rice, Stanford, and the California Institute of Technology. Govea had hesitations about Prince and Yale, and finally decided on Stanford after a two-hour Facebook chat with a current student. He plans on studying bioengineering and computer science, before becoming either a researcher or a professor.